Sundance 2015 Review: Christmas, Again

A perfect accompaniment to the cold Park City nights here at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival is the reflective, and ultimately heart-warming Christmas, Again.

Directed by Charles Poekel, Christmas, Again follows the sombre life of Noel (Kentucker Audley), a broken-hearted Christmas tree salesman. Recovering from a bad break-up, Noel spends his nights moping in his streetside trailer until the arrival of a colourful young woman (Hannah Gross) who helps him from his spiral of self-destruction.

Poekel's narrative shines as an intimate glimpse at post-break-up depression. Handled with a light delicacy, Poekel ignores contrived plot-devices instead shifting focus to the emotional side of his protagonist. Every reminder of Christmas chips away at Noel's ever-declining spirit and ultimately triggers continual reminders of his ex-girlfriend. This sombre tone is further encapsulated by Christmas, Again's frequent night time setting and cluttered trailer locale which adds to the initially sombre, low-key mood. Given this delicate tone, when Poekel does craft a bigger emotional moment, the impact is stirring - most notably showcased when we see Noel return to his car and break down after delivering a tree to a happy family.

There are plenty of light-hearted comic moments capturing the occasional frustration of life working on a Christmas tree stand, which add some well-pitched moments of delicate humour to the proceedings. However the main joy of Christmas, Again comes when it adopts a real heart-warming quality when we see the disillusioned Noel bond with Gross's Lydia and gradually transition from his sombre ways. There is a real cathartic joy in watching the Christmas tree salesman engage with life again - making for magnificently charming viewing.

A gentle leading turn from Kentucker Audley engages throughout - whether capturing Noel's sadness (and subsequent frustration with those around him), or his more charming, uplifted state - the actor is a delight to watch in a role that feels reserved, but is undeniably emotionally open. Cinematography from Sean Price Williams furthers this sense of intimacy - lightly observing the tale with an non-prying eye. Shooting the project on film (as opposed to digital) gives Christmas, Again a timeless feel and an undeniable sense of warming nostalgia perfect for the calm, charming character of Poekel's feature.

Christmas, Again is a hugely rewarding watch. Intimate and low-key in tone, but rich in character and charm, Poekel's film is a real delight.

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